NEW YORK - AT&T Inc. is approaching smaller rivals, including MetroPCS Communications Inc. and Leap Wireless International Inc., to sell spectrum and subscribers as part of an attempt to save its $39 billion takeover of T-Mobile USA Inc., said two people with direct knowledge of the situation.
The phone company, based in Dallas, has also reached out to CenturyLink Inc., Dish Network Corp., and Sprint Nextel Corp. to gauge their interest in buying assets, said the people, who declined to be identified because the talks are private.
AT&T is seeking ways to salvage its agreement to buy T- Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom AG. The Justice Department sued on Aug. 31 to stop the deal. The talks with competitors are preliminary and may not lead to a deal, and the Justice Department may also deem the remedies insufficient, the people said.
AT&T, which would become the largest US wireless operator with the purchase, has asked for an expedited hearing.
Sprint, the third-biggest US mobile operator, has also gone to court; it filed a Sept. 6 antitrust lawsuit against the T-Mobile deal.
Spokesmen for the companies declined to comment.
AT&T has agreed to compensate Deutsche Telekom with $3 billion in cash, as well as wireless spectrum and roaming agreements, if the deal is not completed.
In addition to the DOJ, the companies need approval from the Federal Communications Commission to complete the transaction.